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Breaking down R.I.’s 2nd Congressional District race

House Majority Whip Kazarian details how the Let RI Vote Act would change Rhode Island voting laws

Former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, a Republican, and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, a DemocratHandout

PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Globe Rhode Island columnist Dan McGowan discusses what’s at stake in the high-stakes, high-profile race rapidly taking shape in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, and House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian talks about what would change if the General Assembly passes the Let RI Vote Act.

The Rhode Island political world has been riveted ever since Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin made a surprise announcement last week, saying he will not seek re-election this year after 22 years in the House.

McGowan explained that the announcement signals a once-in-a-generation opportunity – an open Rhode Island congressional seat – that has created a mid-winter bomb cyclone of political ambition.


“I think every ambitious Democrat in the state has had to kind of take a look at this,” he said. “But it is even more interesting because I think we’re going to have a very competitive Republican side and potentially a Republican winner in that district.”

Pressed for a prediction during the podcast taping on Tuesday, McGowan said, “I feel like it’s too soon to say, although I would say that if Seth Magaziner, the treasurer, runs, I think you could see a scenario where it’s a Seth Magaziner versus Allan Fung matchup, which would be a heavyweight match going into the general election.”

On Wednesday, Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner announced that he is changing course and will run for Congress rather than for governor.

Former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, a Republican who twice lost the governor’s race to Gina M. Raimondo, has not announced his candidacy. But observers expect him to join a GOP field that now includes former state Representative Robert B. Lancia, a Cranston Republican who lost to Langevin in 2020.

McGowan also addressed the potential candidacy of the outgoing state Department of Health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who led the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


“This is fascinating,” he said. “Talk about somebody that has big-time name recognition. You’ve seen her on television every single week and sometimes daily for the last couple of years.”

On the other hand, some residents bristle at public health protocols, and attention is focusing on the fact that Alexander-Scott, who makes $143,000 per year, will receive a three-month state consulting contract worth $46,000 per month after she leaves.

Rhode Island House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian, an East Providence Democrat.Handout

Kazarian, an East Providence Democrat, talked about being inspired to run for office after hearing former President Barack Obama deliver her commencement speech at Columbia University’s Barnard College. “The advice I would offer to people who are thinking about running is to go for it and to work as hard as you can,” she said.

Kazarian said she was “disheartened” that federal voting legislation collapsed last week when two Democratic senators refused to join their party in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster.

“I also feel like I’m watching the rerun of a show,” she said. “We’ve seen this time and time again with Washington. We have something really important, something that’s going to help all Americans, and it seems to get caught up in some small glitch or some small issue, and it stops any action from happening.”

But Kazarian said she is hopeful about the prospects of the Let RI Vote Act, which she has introduced in the House and that Senator Dawn Euer, a Newport Democrat, has introduced in the Senate.


The bill would, among other things, eliminate the requirement that voters secure the signatures of two witnesses or a notary public to use a mail ballot. The identity of voters would be confirmed by a signature verification process.

“In spring of 2020, COVID changed the way we do many things, including the way that we vote,” Kazarian said. “We wanted to make sure that people are able to vote in a safe way, in a secure way. So the Let RI Vote bill would codify a lot of those changes while also maintaining the security of our elections.”

Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

The Globe Rhode Island will be inviting candidates for governor and Congress to come on the Rhode Island Report podcast to discuss policies, priorities, and politics. What would you like us to ask them? Use this form to submit your proposed questions for the candidates:

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.